Public Release: 29-Mar-2017
Study reveals amount of premature deaths linked to international trade
University of East Anglia
A new study involving the University of East Anglia (UEA) has revealed for the first time the global scale of premature deaths related to air pollution from international trade.
Each year millions of people die prematurely from diseases caused by exposure to outdoor air pollution. While some studies have estimated premature mortality related to local air pollution sources, it can be affected by atmospheric transport of pollution from distant sources.
International trade is also contributing to the globalisation of emissions and pollution as a result of the production of goods, and their associated emissions, in one region, for consumption in another.
The effects of international trade on air pollutant emissions and air quality have been investigated regionally, but this study presents for the first time a combined global assessment on health impact.
The study focused on deaths from heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Linking four state-of-the-art global data models, the international research team estimates that of the 3.45 million global premature deaths related to PM2.5 pollution in 2007, about 12 per cent, or 411,100, were related to air pollutants emitted in a different region of the world, and about 22 per cent, or 762,400, were associated with goods and services produced in one region for consumption in another.
Chinese emissions caused more than twice the number of deaths worldwide than the emissions of any other region, followed by emissions produced in India and the rest of Asia region. For example, PM2.5 pollution produced in China is linked to more than 64,800 premature deaths in other regions, including over 3,100 deaths in Western Europe and the US. Meanwhile consumption in Western Europe and the US is linked to over 108,600 premature deaths in China.
[Of course, much of the Chinese emissions comes from producing goods for other countries.]
The researchers argue that if the cost of imported products is lower because of less stringent air pollution controls in the regions where they are produced, then the consumer savings may come at the expense of lives lost elsewhere.